Teaching isn’t one job

“Teaching isn’t one job,” writes Education Realist. “Any one teaching position is actually a million interactions between the teacher’s personality, the subject(s) taught, the balance of classroom ability and interest, sculpted by administrative dictates, district and parent socioeconomics, state policy, and school logistics.”

Ed Realist is teaching a non-math class this year and teaching trigonometry for the first time. Most of the Algebra II/Trigonometry students should be in easier classes, which are too full; a few could handle an honors class, also too full. Rejiggering the master schedule is impossible.

It’s a lot of work to teach advanced math to students who didn’t understand basic algebra, but ER is enjoying the challenge.

How do teachers react to the demands of the job? It depends on their personalities. I would wager to say that most are like me and work harder when given a new challenge—whether effectively or not, who knows? Some undoubtedly just shut down and get stubborn. Still others meander around incompetently—not because they are incompetent, but because their job has been defined in such a way that it’s now no longer recognizably their job.

At this point, many teachers aggravate me by going the martyr route. See how hard it is to be a teacher? See how hard we work? And all for the kids!

No. I do this for the intellectual challenge.

Ed Realist would hate to teach the same subject every year to the same sort of students. Some teachers love it.

Educating without ‘Bricks and Mortar’

Online learning doesn’t have to be second best, argue Jeffrey Scarborough and Raymond Ravaglia in Bricks and Mortar: The Making of a Real Education at the Stanford Online High School.

As a seventh grader, my daughter learned algebra through Ravaglia’s Education Program for Gifted Youth, an early distance-learning venture. It got her out of a badly taught “new new math” pre-algebra class.

Apprentice teachers learn what works


Bianka Mariscal with a student at Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School (Jim Wilson/New York Times)

After a one-year apprenticeship, new teachers learn what works in the classroom, reports the New York Times.

Aspire Public Schools, a charter system with schools in California and Memphis, pays teacher residents a stipend while they’re learning their craft. “Mentors believe that the most important thing that novice teachers need to master is the seemingly unexciting — but actually quite complex — task of managing a classroom full of children.”

At Aspire, where most students come from low-income families, residents spend four days a week in a single classroom working with a mentor from late summer through the end of the school year. On the fifth day, they take seminars, role-playing typical situations and deconstructing videos while practicing almost scripted approaches to teaching. If they complete the program, they each earn a master’s degree and a teaching credential through a partnership with a local university.

David Nutt, 26, a Dartmouth graduate who’d taught Palestinian fourth graders in the West Bank, started out in a high school science classroom, but struggled to learn the material while also learning how to teach. In mid-year, he transferred to an Oakland elementary school. That proved to be a good fit.

One March morning, Mr. Nutt jotted division equations on a white board and the students eagerly volunteered to check the work using multiplication. (Mentor Rebecca) Lee, who had gone through a residency herself, filmed him on a Flip video camera and an iPad Mini.

After school, Ms. Lee showed Mr. Nutt the videos. He realized he had dominated the lesson and needed to give the students more time to grapple with math concepts on their own. The pair worked on a plan to double the student talk time.

After his year-long residency, Nutt was hired as a third-grade teacher.

Bianka Mariscal 22, the first college graduate in her family, returned to her old K-8 Aspire school in East Palo Alto as an apprentice — and now a first-grade teacher.

Aspire pays “residents” $13,500 and spends another $15,000 on their training and benefits, reports the Times.  It sounds like a good investment.

The U.S. Education Department is putting some grant money into teacher residency programs.

The shadow knows

 

After 14 years in the classroom, a teacher turned learning coach shadowed two students for two days. She scribbled notes, did a chemistry lab and took tests with her host students, a 10th grader and a 12th grader.

It was exhausting — and enlightening, she writes. Over the two days, students spent 90 percent of the time sitting passively and listening (or not listening).

If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:

Offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heels (e.g. a ten-minute lecture on Whitman’s life and poetry, followed by small-group work in which teams scour new poems of his for the very themes and notions expressed in the lecture, and then share out or perform some of them to the whole group while everyone takes notes on the findings.)

Set an egg timer every time I get up to talk and all eyes are on me. When the timer goes off, I am done.

. . . Ask every class to start with students’ Essential Questions or just general questions born of confusion from the previous night’s reading or the previous class’s discussion. I would ask them to come in to class and write them all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed.

She’d also set a personal “no sarcasm” goal and ask students to hold her accountable for it.

“Teachers work hard, but I now think that conscientious students work harder,” she concludes. All teachers should spend a day as a shadow to build empathy for their students.

‘Free’ college won’t help needy students

“Free community college” programs won’t help low-income students because they already pay little or no tuition. Nearly all benefits of the Tennessee Promise and Chicago’s new scholarships will go to middle-class students who aren’t eligible for Pell Grants and other aid.

Why teens sext

About a third of older teens have sent a naked photo of themselves, usually to a boyfriend or girlfriend, writes Hanna Rosin in Why Kids Sext in The Atlantic.

Why do teens sext? Because they’re stupid?

Michelle Obama: Advice to my teen-age self

Michelle Obama: Advice to My Younger SelfWhat advice would you give to your younger self? People asked Michelle Obama.

“Stop being so afraid!,” she replied. “That’s really what strikes me when I look back – the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation. I was afraid of not knowing the answer in class and looking stupid, or worried about what some boy thought of me, or wondering whether the other girls liked my clothes or my hair, or angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom.”

I would love to go back in time and tell my younger self, “Michelle, these middle and high school years are just a tiny blip in your life, and all the slights and embarrassments and heartaches, all those times you got that one question wrong on that test – none of that is important in the scheme of things.”

When my daughter entered her teens, I shared my hard-won wisdom. “Other people don’t care about your hair or your clothes. They’re worried about their own hair and their own clothes.”

From ‘meh’ to ‘muahaha’

The Halloween Decorating Kit at Steve Spangler Science promises 10 activities to take your trick-or-treaters from “meh” to “muahaha.”

. . . make your home or classroom into the spooky and ghastly fright-fest you’ve always wanted. No more peeled grapes for eyeballs and spaghetti for brains and guts. You’re going to use amazing hands-on science to create an unforgettably haunting experience!

The kit includes “glowing ghost eggs, growing brains and, of course, toxic zombie blood.

Halloween: Too pagan for schools?

When some parents complained Halloweeen is a pagan holiday, a New Jersey school canceled the annual celebrations.

But Halloween is back on the schedule at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood.

District officials decided they needed more time to discuss the issue.

Each year, students whose parents object to celebrating Halloween are given an alternative activity.

Parents who think Halloween is the work of the devil must be frustrated by how much fun the holiday is for its celebrants. It’s tough to compete.

Think tankers don’t like the Vergara strategy

Think tankers hate the Vergara strategy, writes Alexander Russo in linking to the American Federation of Teachers’ anti-Campbell Brown video.

Why? “Think tankers and others are feeling burned by the pushback against reforms of the recent era (the so-called “war on teachers”), they’re not as nearly familiar with legal strategies (as opposed to policies, programs, and politics), and they probably think they’re smarter than Campbell Brown, who’s leading the charge.”